Category Archives: Research Methods

The Miller sisters

Hannah Miller’s headstone at Oak Hill Cemetery in Bradford, McKean Co., Pa. Courtesy of Findagrave.com

Steven Weyand Folkers’ comment on a recent post – regarding a father and son both marrying women surnamed Miller, but from unrelated families – reminded me of a similar example in my own research several years ago with two Davis sisters who had married men named Miller.

This project started with trying to identify the children of Clark Davis (1803–1881) and his wife Philena Franklin (1811–1882) of Steuben County, New York. Continue reading The Miller sisters

A grain of salt

We are all familiar with the on-line address databases that pretend to list “relatives,” which often are no more than similar names picked up by the databases’ algorithms. My own listing, for example, includes none of my real relatives and instead links me to strangers Peter, Paul, Gerard, Marian, Dawn, and Francis Williams – who I am sure have no more heard of me than I of them. It also incorrectly lists me as having lived in Clermont, Florida; Fort Lee, New Jersey; and at the Alden House in Duxbury!

Ergo, it is usually best to use these databases with a large “grain of salt.” However, much to my surprise, I just found a “lost” branch of the Babson family using clues from on-line address databases. Continue reading A grain of salt

Heroine of the Battle Road

Ruins of the central chimney of the Hartwell house in Lincoln. Photo by Jet Lowe. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While perusing the shelves at a local book sale several months ago, I came across a small volume that would ultimately help to broaden my understanding of a seminal event in American history. The title of the book – Heroine of the Battle Road, Mary Flint Hartwell – caught my attention and interest. As an enthusiast of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts history, I was familiar with the phrase “Battle Road”– likely a reference to the famous march of the British army from Boston through Lexington to seize powder and arms in Concord the night of 19 April 1775.

My suspicions were confirmed when I read the subtitle:  A Drama of One Woman’s Courage on the Night of Paul Revere’s Ride in April of 1775. Having read several books on the famous skirmishes at Lexington and Concord I was curious why I had never heard of Mary Flint Hartwell.  By purchasing the book, I hoped to find out more.

Continue reading Heroine of the Battle Road

Sex in Middlesex

As one would imagine from the title, Roger Thompson’s most popular work (see my last post) is Sex in Middlesex, Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699.[1] First, a few words on the differences between academic historians and genealogists. Academic historians are concerned with the “why” of history. They gather large samples of statistical information but usually skim over individual people. Genealogists work from the individual, but usually we leave the bigger picture to the historians while we move on to another ancestor. Continue reading Sex in Middlesex

Closed doors

Georgia Lee Young and Katheryn Elizabeth Ogle, ca. 1917.

Adoption records can be one of the most frustrating aspects of genealogical research. Still somewhat taboo in nature, the information they contain can be invaluable. These types of records are usually preceded by thick brick walls both factual and emotional. The process of looking for these records may also lead the researcher to confront many statutes reflecting closed door policies.

In the spring of 1915, my grandmother was placed for adoption by the Kansas Children’s Home. When my grandmother became of age, she located her biological mother and was able to build a brief bond.[i] By 1939, this bond had expired. My grandmother lived out her life with many questions about her natural parents, and never knew the name of her biological father. After my grandmother passed away, it became my quest to understand and learn everything I could about her adoption – before and after. Continue reading Closed doors

Mobility and migration

The Great Migration to New England from 1620 through 1640 is the focal point of the Great Migration Study Project by Robert Charles Anderson that NEHGS has been publishing for more than twenty years, but there are also a number of lesser-known academic studies of interest to Great Migration descendants.

Roger Thompson, “a retired university reader in American history at the University of East Anglia,” has written several very interesting books that I highly recommend. The first one that I picked up off the shelf today is his Mobility & Migration, East Anglian Founders of New England, 1629–1640,[1] which is a statistical examination of conditions behind the families that came from East Anglia during the Great Migration. Continue reading Mobility and migration

Common walls

Vintage Long Beach travel poster. Image courtesy of the MuscleHeaded Blog

More often than not our work in genealogy and family history leads us to more than one proverbial brick wall. No matter how hard we try, or with what tenacity we  might pursue that much needed fact, vital record, or even secondary source material, it all seems to no avail. While there is no panacea to cover all the brick walls we encounter, there just might be a way to refocus attention on the task at hand, i.e., research, by looking at unrelated people, places, or things – in a familiar place. Continue reading Common walls

‘You must be from Minnesota’

Before I began working at NEHGS in November 2015, I had a job where I interacted with between thirty and fifty different people every day. One of those people was a linguist, who, upon hearing me speak, said, “You aren’t from here.” She was right. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I grew up in northern New Hampshire and moved to Massachusetts in 2011.

I said to her, “No, I’m not from Massachusetts. I’m a transplant.”

Her answer, oddly enough, was, “You must be from Minnesota.” Continue reading ‘You must be from Minnesota’

Abandoning America

Sir Richard Saltonstall came to New England with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630. He left in 1631. His oldest son, Richard Saltonstall, also returned to England in 1631, where he got married in 1633 and then brought his wife and their nine-month-old daughter back to New England. The younger Saltonstall was active, sometimes controversially, in the Massachusetts government and travelled back and forth between the colonies and old England over the next six decades. In 1643 he took his wife, Muriel, and all of his daughters home to England for the benefit of her health (which apparently was affected by a deep distaste for the New World), leaving only his youngest son Nathaniel to settle permanently in Massachusetts. After more trips back and forth, Richard returned to England for good in 1688. “Richard never really became a New Englander.” Continue reading Abandoning America

As is

Genealogists spend a lot of time correcting published genealogical works, which is especially ironic when it comes to Clarence Almon Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700, published by NEHGS and the work upon which the Early New England Families Study Project is based.

We have constant inquiries about, and requests to fix, typographical mistakes and transcription errors in the Torrey database on AmericanAncestors.org, which is not really a “database” but an index to the images from the three-volume print publication, also published by NEHGS. Continue reading As is